Scientific Name(s): Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil. var.
Common Name(s): Chimarrao, Cimarrón, Erva maté, Hierba maté, Jesuit's tea, Kaiha, Maté, Paraguay tea, St. Bartholomew's tea, Terere, Yerba maté
Maté is a tea brewed from the dried and minced leaves of I. paraguariensis (yerba maté), a dioecious evergreen tree in the holly family (see Holly) that grows 8 to 15 m in height. The green leaves are 8 cm long, alternate, and ovate, with a wedge-shaped base. The petioles, or stalks, are up to 15 mm long. The flowering stage produces white petals that may be in clusters of 1 to 15 flowers during the spring season. The fruits are red and contain 4 to 5 seeds. The species is native to Paraguay, Uruguay, northeastern Argentina, and southern Brazil and requires a relatively wet and moderate climate.Bracesco 2011, Heck 2007, USDA 2013
Maté infusion has been used for centuries in folk medicine as a stimulant against physical and mental weakness, and for treating hepatic and digestive diseases, obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and inflammatory diseases, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The infusion or decoction of the aerial parts of I. paraguariensis was used traditionally as a beverage for its depurative (promoting cleansing and excretion of waste), stimulant, and diuretic properties by indigenous people of Brazil and Paraguay. It was first cultivated by Jesuit missionaries in these regions. Consumption of maté is common in Brazil south of the Amazon River and in Paraguay and Argentina, where it largely replaces coffee and tea in the diet. Raw leaves are not consumed but are harvested from May through September and flash heated to halt enzymatic processes. The leaves are then wood smoked, dried, and aged, processes that alter the chemical composition and flavor of the resultant powdered leaves. Traditionally, the maté beverage was served in a small gourd called a "maté" and consumed through a drinking tube, or "bombilla," with a filter attached to the lower end to prevent consumption of leaf fragments. Burnt sugar, lemon juice, or milk may be used to flavor the infusion.Alikaridis 1987, Bracesco 2011, de Andrade 2012, Heck 2007, USDA 2018
Maté has typically been consumed as a beverage, but capsule and tablet doseforms have been developed to avoid the tea's bitterness. Maté is marketed in candy, beer, and creams, and can be found in supermarkets in the United States in the form of energy drinks and in Europe as combination herbal products (for purported weight reduction effects) and as an energy tea. Argentina exports the most maté while Uruguay has the highest per capita consumption: 6 to 8 kg per person per year, followed by Argentina at 5 kg per person per year.de Andrade 2012
I. paraguariensis contains polyphenols and caffeoyl derivatives, including caffetannin, which yield caffeic acid when hydrolyzed, along with chlorogenic, neochlorogenic, and isochlorogenic acids. The polyphenol content, dependent on processing methods, differs from that of green tea because it does not contain catechins yet has a high concentration of chlorogenic acid, which is considered responsible for free radical and metal scavenging activity. Chlorogenic acids are also found in coffee, strawberries, pineapples, apples, sunflowers, and blueberries. Xanthines, including theophylline (0.02%), caffeine (0.56%), and theobromine (0.03%), are found in the waxy leaves and the woody stems of the plant. The fruits of I. paraguariensis contain the anthocyanins cyanidin-3-xylosylglucoside and cyanidin-3-glucoside. The leaves contain rutin, alpha-amyrin, trigonelline, choline, and ursolic acid. Maté has been shown to contain phytosterols. More than 15 amino acids are present in the leaves. Oil from the seeds contains lauric, palmitic, arachidic, stearic, palmitoleic, oleic, and linoleic acids.
Saponins have been identified and are responsible for maté's unique flavor. The carbohydrates sucrose, raffinose, glucose, and levulose are present, along with nicotinic acid, carotene, and vitamins C, B1, and B5. Mineral elements include aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, potassium, silver, and zinc. Toxic contaminants and adulterants have been found in maté powder.Alikaridis 1987, Braganca 2011, de Andrade 2012, Gnoatto 2008, Heck 2007, Isolabella 2010, Strassmann 2008, Sugimoto 2009, Tenorio Sanz 1991, Vazquez 1986, Vieira 2008, Xu 2009
Uses and Pharmacology
In vitro data
In a study using high-performance liquid chromatography to evaluate the effect of I. paraguariensis on growth of Malassezia furfur, a saprophyte fungus responsible for skin lesions in humans, antifungal activity of an aqueous I. paraguariensis extract (1,000 mg/mL) was comparable with that of ketoconazole 2.7 mcg/mL.Filip 2010
Maté extract exhibited potent antiobesity activity and altered the expression of several genes related to obesity in white adipose tissue of high-fat diet–induced obese mice.Arçari 2009 In another study, the extract attenuated weight gain adiposity without any reduction in food intake in mice fed a high-fat diet to induce obesity.Arçari 2011 In addition, glucose tolerance improved and anti-inflammatory activity was mediated through the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-KB) pathway. An aqueous extract of yerba maté reduced abdominal and epididymal fat but increased blood glucose levels in normolipidemic and nondiabetic rats. It was noted that the aqueous extract contained higher concentrations of sugars compared with the commercial extract.Silva 2011 Oral administration of a purified maté saponin fraction from unripe fruits in rats fed a standard diet reduced visceral fat weight, plasma triglyceride levels, and glucose oxidation of liver and fat tissues.Resende 2012 Decreases in glucose, insulin, and lipid levels, as well as in body weight were observed in obese mice fed dried maté, (approximately 400 mg/kg body weight) and a high-fat diet for 16 weeks.Choi 2017 Maté extract attenuated both central and peripheral inflammatory processes caused by a high-fat diet rich in saturated fatty acids administered to rats.Pimentel 2013
The effect of a patented commercial maté product on appetite and food intake was examined in 58 participants in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The supplement induced a decrease in food and energy intake and improved satiation between meals.Harrold 2013 In a 12-week double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, 30 participants with a mean age of 43 years and a mean body mass index of approximately 28 kg/m2 consumed 3 g/day of a standardized yerba maté product containing 35 mg/g of chlorogenic acid. Body fat mass, percent body fat, and waist-hip ratio were all significantly decreased (P=0.036, P=0.03, and P=0.005, respectively) in obese individuals who supplemented their diet with maté compared with those receiving placebo. No changes were observed in abdominal visceral or subcutaneous fat, lipid parameters, or circumference measurements, including hip, waist, arm, and thigh over the 12-week study period. Body weight was not reported. The product was well tolerated.Kim 2015
In vitro data
Peroxidase-like activity due to polyphenol content (especially chlorogenic and caffeic acid) has been demonstrated,Bixby 2005, Gugliucci 2009 as has inhibition of oxidative and nitrosative stress in liver and heart tissue.Bixby 2005, Schinella 2005 Inhibition of lipid peroxidation and prevention of peroxide-induced DNA damage in liver, kidney, and bladder tissues have also been shown,Heck 2007, Martins 2009, Miranda 2008 along with decreased advanced glycation end-product formation in hyperglycemia models.Gugliucci 2009, Lunceford 2005
Phenolic compounds from a maté infusion did not inhibit platelet aggregation or blood coagulation and improved antioxidant activity and promoted plasma and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) protection against ex vivo lipid peroxidation.da Silva 2008 In an isolated rat heart model, a 10% w/v aqueous maté leaf extract protected the heart from myocardial stunning, improved systolic and diastolic function, and reduced oxidative cardiac damage after ischemia and reperfusion.Schinella 2009 A maté leaf extract inhibited malondialdehyde formation in sunflower oil (20 mmol/kg) and conjugated dienes production in oil/water emulsions (60 mmol/kg); its efficiency was comparable with a commercial extract rich in tocopherols.Valerga 2012 Chlorogenic acid in maté increased mRNA expression and enzyme activity of the intracellular antioxidant enzyme paraoxonase (PON-2) in macrophages,Fernandes 2012 with caffeic acid responsible for the increased enzyme activity. Although the sample size was small, consumption of maté infusions increased PON-2 gene expression and activity in monocytes and macrophages obtained from healthy women.Fernandes 2012
In a limited study of 15 healthy patients, daily consumption of 5 g of instant yerba maté tea diluted in 500 mL of water affected plasma oxidative stress parameters and increased leukocyte antioxidant enzyme gene expression.Matsumoto 2009 In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of maté administration in patients with HIV controlled by antiretroviral therapy (N=92), no significant improvements in inflammatory or oxidative stress biomarkers were observed. In another study of patients with HIV/AIDS, a significant benefit was seen with 15-day consumption of dark chocolate (36 g cocoa with an average of 2,864 mg of polyphenols and 550 mg/day of flavonoids) compared with 3 g/day of maté (321 mg/day of total phenols) (P=0.04).Petrilli 2016 In a study in dyslipidemic volunteers, plasma and blood oxidative stress biomarkers were improved with consumption of maté tea with or without the addition of an antioxidant-rich diet; however, the addition of the tea with the dietary intervention offered no additional improvements in antioxidant status over the dietary intervention alone.Boaventura 2012
In vitro data
The phenolic constituents of maté tea inhibited oral cancer cell proliferation by inhibiting topoisomerase II.Gonzalez 2005 Additional proposed mechanisms of action include inhibition of proteasome, aromatase, and reactive oxygen species, and antiangiogenic effects.Arbiser 2005, Gnoatto 2008, Heck 2007, Martins 2009, Strassmann 2008 Maté saponins (1.2% from maté leaves) possessed anti-inflammatory activity and inhibited colon cancer cell (HT-29) growth through apoptosis.Puangpraphant 2011 The inhibition may be associated with a caspase-dependent cascade involving activation of the mitochondrial pathway. In glioma cells, an aqueous extract of yerba maté reduced inflammatory interleukin 6 (IL-6) release by increasing omega-7 palmitoleic acid and other fatty acids.Cittadini 2018
A 2010 systematic review and meta-analysis explored the association between maté consumption and oropharyngeal cancers. The 4 eligible studies (N=2,007) were case-control studies conducted in either Uruguay or Brazil; heterogeneity was 67% with all 4 considered studies but dropped to 0% with exclusion of 1 study. An association was observed between maté consumption and development of oropharyngeal (oral, tongue, pharynx) cancer, with a pooled odds ratio (OR) of 2.11 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.39 to 3.11) and some evidence suggesting a dose-response effect. A synergistic effect between maté consumption and amount of smoking as well as type of tobacco used was observed. Cancer risk based on the temperature of the beverage was unclear.Dasanayake 2010 Similar results were presented by another meta-analysis that investigated the associated risk of maté consumption with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Of the 9 studies that met inclusion criteria (N=6,898), an increased risk was found in those with any exposure to maté compared with no exposure (OR, 2.57; 95% CI, 1.66 to 3.98), with higher doses showing an increased risk over lower doses; heterogeneity was important for the "ever exposure" and the "high-dose" analyses. Subgroup analysis indicated that both tobacco and alcohol consumption increased the risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OR, 2.23; 95% CI, 1.15 to 4.35), with no relevant heterogeneity.Andrici 2013
Animal and in vitro data
In vitro studies of maté suggest that the combined lipolytic effects of the caffeine component with the interference of saponins in cholesterol absorption/metabolism influence lipid profiles and thereby protect against atherosclerosis.Heck 2007, Sugimoto 2009 Animal experiments have shown inconsistent effects of maté extracts on lipid profiles and serum glucose. In some studies, serum cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced with maté consumption.Martins 2009, Mosimann 2006, Oliveira 2008, Paganini 2005, Pang 2008
In a single-blind, controlled trial of 102 subjects, the effects of maté on lipid and lipoprotein levels were examined. Normolipidemic (n=15), dyslipidemic (n=57), and hypercholesterolemic patients on long-term statin therapy (n=30) consumed 330 mL of green or roasted yerba maté infusions 3 times/day for 40 days. In normolipidemic subjects, LDL cholesterol was reduced by 8.7%. In dyslipidemic participants, LDL cholesterol was reduced on average by 8% and non–high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol by approximately 6%. After 20 days, apolipoprotein B was reduced by 6% and HDL cholesterol was increased by 4.4% in dyslipidemic participants. Hypercholesterolemic patients on statin therapy averaged an additional 12% reduction in LDL cholesterol and 6.2% increase in HDL cholesterol; triglycerides remained unchanged for all participants. The mechanism of action was attributed to the saponins, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and/or caffeine reducing LDL cholesterol by blocking cholesterol absorption in the small intestine and inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver.de Morais 2009 In a randomized controlled intervention study (N=74), consumption of maté tea for 90 days with or without an antioxidant-rich dietary intervention improved antioxidant parameters in dyslipidemic patients at increased risk of atherosclerosis. The combination of maté tea with the antioxidant-rich dietary intervention offered no additional improvement in oxidative stress biomarkers compared to dietary intervention alone (control group). The tea was administered as an infusion of 1 L/day, prepared using minced roasted maté leaves that were steeped for 10 minutes (concentration of 20 mg/mL); the tea was consumed without sugar or sugar-like substances. The dietary intervention was low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and transfatty acids and was rich in fruit, vegetables, and legumes. Compared with baseline, only the maté tea without dietary intervention group experienced an improvement in LDL cholesterol. No adverse effects of 90-day maté tea consumption were observed.Boaventura 2012 A single-blind, randomized, controlled intervention trial conducted in 59 patients with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes evaluated the effects of roasted maté tea consumption on glycemic and lipid profiles. Compared to baseline, LDL cholesterol was significantly reduced (−8.1 mg/dL; P<0.05) in patients with diabetes who consumed maté tea 330 mL 3 times daily for 60 days (concentration of 20 mg/mL). Maté tea provided additional benefit when added to the dietary intervention, resulting in a significant increase in HDL cholesterol (by 5.2 mg/dL; P<0.05). Although no other improvements with the combination of maté tea plus dietary intervention were observed in patients with diabetes, the prediabetes group experienced significant improvements in LDL, non-HDL, and triglycerides (−11 mg/dL [P=0.05], −21.5 mg/dL [P=0.05], and −53 mg/dL [P<0.01], respectively). Adverse events in the maté tea group that led to study discontinuation were insomnia, heartburn, and tachycardia.Klein 2011
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in 142 volunteers with high blood viscosity in order to investigate the safety and efficacy of maté tea on microcirculatory and hemorheological parameters in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease. Consumption of maté tea for 6 weeks (one 5 g/day tea bag steeped in 300 mL of boiling water and reused 5 times daily) produced significant improvements compared with baseline in several microcirculatory, hematological, and hemorheological measurements (P<0.01 for all), with values comparable with normal controls. Additionally, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol were improved significantly with maté tea compared with baseline. No significant changes were observed in the placebo group compared with baseline in any of the measured outcomes. Compared with placebo, one hemorheological parameter (equation K value sedimentation rate of erythrocyte) was reported to be significantly improved with maté tea; however, no between-group data were provided. Likewise, no safety data were reported.Yu 2015
An aqueous I. paraguariensis extract administered to rats over 15 days decreased adenosine triphosphate, adenosine diphosphate, and adenosine monophosphate hydrolysis in blood serum. Many of these nucleotides are released during pathological vascular processes. The aqueous infusions also had diuretic and hypotensive effects.Görgen 2005
Animal experiments suggest a nondopaminergic effect on induced catalepsy and dyskinesia, possibly because of the antagonism of adenosine. Improvements in short-term memory have been demonstrated in rodents, and a potential "caffeine effect" on the CNS has been recognized.Blumenthal 1998, Colpo 2007, Milioli 2007, Prediger 2008
A 200 mg/kg maté infusion caused a serum glucose–lowering effect in a dose-dependent manner in hyperglycemic rats.Pereira 2012 The biological activity may be related to the methylxanthines and phenolic compounds in I. paraguariensis.Pagliosa 2010, Pereira 2012
A single-blind, randomized design pilot study investigated the effect of maté compared with dietary intervention on glycemic and lipid parameters in 58 adults who either had type 2 diabetes or were prediabetes. All patients were currently taking metformin and sulfonylureas. Patients were randomized to 1 of 3 groups: maté tea 330 mL 3 times daily (concentration of 20 mg/mL), dietary intervention (increased fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains plus reduced simple sugars, saturated fats, transfatty acids, and cholesterol-rich foods), or dietary intervention plus maté tea. After 60 days, fasting glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin were improved compared with baseline in diabetic patients who consumed maté tea (−17% [P<0.05] and −0.85% [P=0.05], respectively); the change in glycosylated hemoglobin was also significant compared with the other 2 groups (P<0.05). Prediabetic patients did not experience significant changes at 60 days in any treatment group. LDL cholesterol was also significantly reduced in diabetic patients in the maté alone group (−8.1 mg/dL; P<0.05) after 60 days. Maté tea provided additional benefit when added to the dietary intervention, resulting in a significant increase in HDL cholesterol (by 5.2 mg/dL; P<0.05). Although no other improvements with the combination of maté tea plus dietary intervention were observed in patients with diabetes, the prediabetes group experienced significant improvements in LDL, non-HDL, and triglycerides (−11 mg/dL [P=0.05], −21.5 mg/dL [P=0.05], and −53 mg/dL [P<0.01], respectively). Adverse events in the maté tea group that led to study discontinuation were insomnia, heartburn, and tachycardia.Klein 2011
In a randomized, controlled, crossover study, 12 healthy and physically active young men consumed maté tea (1 g of lyophilized instant mate tea dissolved in 200 mL of cold water [5 mg/mL]) 3 times daily or water for 11 days and were then crossed over to the other treatment. The effect of maté tea on recovery of muscle strength after 3 sets of eccentric exercise was assessed. Although no difference in isometric strength between phases was observed immediately after the exercise, the pattern of recovery at 24 hours was significant for the maté tea phase, with greater strength noted (P=0.008). The rate of strength recovery within the first 24 hours was 15.3% during tea consumption and 6.7% with water (P=0.009). Total blood polyphenols as well as glutathione status were significantly higher during the maté tea phase than the control phase.Panza 2016
Compared to placebo, increased fat oxidation was observed with a 2 g dose of yerba maté (four 500 mg capsules) given 2 hours prior to prolonged exercise in 12 young, healthy women. Benefits in measurements of satiety and mood were also observed.Alkhatib 2017
Postmenopausal women (n=146) who consumed 1 L daily of maté tea during 4 or more years had higher bone mineral density at the lumbar spine and femoral neck compared with an equal number of women who did not drink the tea.Conforti 2012
In a murine sepsis model, the I. paraguariensis polysaccharide rhamnogalacturonan reduced the rate of mortality by 60% at a 10 mg/kg dose, as well as reduced neutrophil migration in lung tissue and decreased tissue expression of proinflammatory enzymes.Dartora 2013
Maté is widely consumed as a beverage; however, clinical data to form a basis for dosing are limited. The amount of caffeine in an average serving of maté ranges from 65 to 130 mg.Heckman 2010 Numerous commercial products are available, including capsule and tablet formulations marketed for energizing, rejuvenating, and nutritional qualities.
Cardiovascular disease risk factors
1 L/day of maté tea for 90 days was used in a trial evaluating the effects of maté tea intake on oxidative stress biomarkers of dyslipidemic subjects.Boaventura 2012 Another study evaluating maté use for reduction of some cardiovascular disease risk factors (eg, high blood viscosity, microcirculatory disturbance) used a yerba maté tea infusion made from one 5 g/day tea bag of dried I. paraguariensis leaves steeped in 300 mL of boiling water and reused 5 times daily for 6 weeks.Yu 2015
990 mL/day of maté tea, in 3 divided doses (concentration of 20 mg/mL) for 60 days was used to improve glycemic and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes and in prediabetes individuals.Klein 2011
3 capsules (each containing yerba maté 333.38 mg) 3 times daily (total daily dose of 3 g) for 12 weeks has been used in a trial evaluating the antiobesity effects of yerba maté supplementation.Kim 2015
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use during pregnancy; documented adverse effects. Low birth weight, birth defects, and premature birth have been associated with caffeine ingestion.Ernst 2002 A cross-sectional study found no association with preterm birth or small-for-gestational-weight outcomes when confounders (eg, smoking) were removed from the analysis.Santos 2005 Avoid use during lactation due to documented adverse effects.
Data are lacking concerning specific drug interactions. Potentiation of the effects of caffeine and theophylline is a concern. Maté supplementation may also potentiate the effects of antidepressants (eg, lithium, clozapine), antibiotics (eg, linezolid), and nonprescription decongestants (eg, pseudoephedrine).
There are case reports of neonatal withdrawal syndrome resulting from long-term maternal consumption of maté, with high concentrations of theobromine found in the placenta, cord serum, neonatal urine, and breast milk. Symptoms included increased irritability, crying, and hypertonia in the limbs.Martin 2007 Adverse effects documented in 1 study of healthy women administered maté included insomnia, anxiety, GI irritation, and tachycardia.Fernandes 2012
Avoid use if hypersensitive to any of the components of maté. Restricted use of maté may be warranted in patients with hypertension or certain cardiac disorders. Hot maté is considered to be carcinogenic in humans, although this association is uncertain. An association was observed between maté consumption and development of oropharyngeal (oral, tongue, pharynx, esophageal) cancer, with some evidence suggesting a dose-response effect. A synergistic effect was observed between maté consumption and amount of smoking, as well as type of tobacco used.Andrici 2013, Dasanayake 2010
Epidemiological case-control studies suggest high maté consumption (greater than 1 L/day) is associated with cancer, especially head, neck, and bladder cancers; however, studies are conflicting and confounding factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, malnutrition, and the role of high levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons originating from wood smoke in the processing of the leaves, were not addressed.Bates 2007, de Andrade 2012, De Stefani 2007, Goldenberg 2003, Heck 2007, Kamangar 2008, Martín 2007, Santos 2005, Sewram 2003, Vassallo 1985
Both antiangiogenic and provascular properties have been demonstrated for maté extracts, while mutagenicity and genotoxicity (but not clastogenicity or aneugenicity) have been demonstrated in bacterial and human lymphocyte cell assays.Alves 2008, Heck 2007, Strassmann 2008
Up to 2 g/kg/day of a commercial roasted maté extract over 60 days administered to mice showed no toxicological or genotoxic effects on liver, kidney, and bladder cells.de Andrade 2012
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